Thursday 27 June 2019

Isil terrorists jailed for life over Tunisia gun attacks

60 people including three Irish killed when gunmen stormed museum and hotel in 2015

Victims Laurence and Martina Hayes, from Athlone, Co Westmeath
Victims Laurence and Martina Hayes, from Athlone, Co Westmeath
Lorna Carty, from Co Meath.
Tunisian gunman Seifeddine Rezgui

Bouazza Ben Bouazza in Tunisia

Seven jihadists have been sentenced to life in prison in Tunisia over attacks at a museum and a beach resort in 2015. Sixty people, mostly tourists, died in the two attacks and many were wounded.

Among the casualties were three Irish people - Co Westmeath couple Laurence Hayes (56) and his wife Martina Hayes (55), plus Co Meath woman Lorna Carty (54), who were shot dead in the attack on a tourist resort in Sousse in June 2015, which left 38 people dead.

Some of the many defendants received lesser sentences and 27 were acquitted. Prosecutors plan to appeal.

The first attack, at the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March 2015 killed 22. Three months later, the 38 tourists were shot dead at the Port El Kantaoui, resort near Sousse.

There were two separate trials. In the Sousse trial, four militants were given life sentences, while five others were sentenced to between six months and 16 years.

In the Bardo trial, three defendants received life terms and a number of others were jailed for shorter periods. Ten were acquitted.

The Isil terror group said it carried out the attacks. The man believed to have planned both, Chamseddine al-Sandi, remains at large. Unconfirmed reports suggest he may have died in a US air strike in February 2016 in Libya.

The Bardo attack took place on March 18, when two gunmen in military uniforms stormed the National Bardo Museum, near the city's parliament buildings, where anti-terrorism legislation was under discussion. Twenty-two people, including 17 tourists, were killed. Among the dead were citizens from Japan, Italy, Colombia, Australia, France, Poland and Spain.

Two Tunisians, one a police officer, were also killed. More than 40 people were injured. The attackers, both Tunisian citizens, were killed by police.

Three months later, on June 26, Tunisian electronics student Seifeddine Rezgui, opened fire on tourists staying in the resort of Port El Kantaoui, just north of Sousse.

Rezgui was dropped off down a side road, a short distance from the beach, and walked the rest of the way with a Kalashnikov rifle hidden in a parasol. When he arrived at the five-star Hotel Riu Imperial Marhaba, he opened fire at tourists on sun loungers on the beach.

As holidaymakers fled for their lives, the gunman continued his attack, entering the hotel complex via the pool area. He killed 38 people before fleeing in to the streets, where he was shot by police.

A state of emergency has been in place in Tunisia since the attacks. The nation's tourism industry was badly hit, but it has shown signs of recovery in the past year with travel bans lifted by several countries. There has also been progress in combating jihadists, but the militants still pose a potent threat while the endemic problems of chronic unemployment and lack of economic opportunity persist.

© Associated Press

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